Secretary Salazar Issues Decision on Point Reyes National Seashore Permit

U. S. Department of the Interior

                                                   Date: November 29, 2012
                                 Contact: Blake Androff (DOI) 202-208-6416

Secretary Salazar Issues Decision on Point Reyes National Seashore Permit

 Multipart decision includes transition for oyster company, clarity for
 ranching activities, and fulfilling Congressional vision for wilderness

WASHINGTON – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today issued a decision
that will allow the Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s operating permit to expire
at Point Reyes National Seashore in California according to its terms, and
will return the affected area to wilderness. The decision also ensures
that, in keeping with the historic use of the land, existing sustainable
ranching operations within the national park will continue.

In 1972, the National Park Service purchased the land that housed the
oyster operation and the owner reserved a 40-year right to continue its
activities through November 30, 2012. In 2004, Drakes Bay Oyster Company
acquired the business from the prior owner. Today’s decision will end the
company’s commercial operations within the national park, including an
onshore oyster processing facility and offshore oyster harvesting
activities that occur on over 1,000 acres in the estuary.

“I’ve taken this matter very seriously. We’ve undertaken a robust public
process to review the matter from all sides, and I have personally visited
the park to meet with the company and members of the community,” said
Secretary Salazar. “After careful consideration of the applicable law and
policy, I have directed the National Park Service to allow the permit for
the Drakes Bay Oyster Company to expire at the end of its current term and
to return the Drakes Estero to the state of wilderness that Congress
designated for it in 1976. I believe it is the right decision for Point
Reyes National Seashore and for future generations who will enjoy this
treasured landscape.”

Point Reyes National Seashore was designated as a unit of the national park
system by Congress in 1962 to protect more than 80 miles of California
coastline. The park’s authorizing legislation also enables the Secretary of
the Interior to lease designated areas within the park for dairy and
cattle-ranching purposes.

The Secretary today directed the National Park Service to pursue extending
the terms of agriculture permits from 10 to 20 years to provide greater
certainty and clarity for the ranches operating within the national park’s
pastoral zone and to support the continued presence of sustainable ranching
and dairy operations.

“From the Flint Hills of Kansas to the Crown of the Continent in Montana to
the Everglades Headwaters in Florida, we have worked to implement a new era
of conservation that protects America’s rich ranching and farming
heritage,” said Salazar. “Ranching operations have a long and important
history on the Point Reyes peninsula and will be continued at Point Reyes
National Seashore. I have directed that the Superintendent work with the
operators of these ranches to ensure that sustainable agriculture
production continues and plays an important role in the local economy.”

As part of today’s announcement, Secretary Salazar directed the affected
areas within Drakes Estero within Point Reyes National Seashore to be
converted from potential to designated wilderness. In 1976, Congress
identified Drakes Estero as potential wilderness – the only marine
wilderness area on the west coast of the continental United States outside
Alaska—and directed that it automatically become wilderness when the
commercial operation ended.

“Carrying out steps set in motion by the United States Congress over three
decades ago, we are taking the final step to recognize this pristine area
as wilderness,” said Salazar. “The Estero is one of our nation’s crown
jewels, and today we are fulfilling the vision to protect this special
place for generations to come.”

Additionally, the Secretary directed the National Park Service to work with
the oyster company to remove its personal property from the lands and
waters within 90 days, and asked the National Park Service to use all
existing legal authorities to help employees who might be affected by this
decision, including assisting with relocation, employment opportunities and
training.

Point Reyes National Seashore welcomes more than two million visitors every
year who generate almost $85 million in benefits to local economies and
support nearly 1,000 jobs in surrounding communities. The park supports one
of the largest harbor seal colonies in the state and provides critical
habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.